Rules & Regulations
This could be the most important reading you do before arriving in Black Rock City.
At Burning Man & The Surrounding Areas
What Public Agencies Patrol The Event?
- Federal Bureau of Land Management Rangers
- Pershing County Sheriff’s Office
- Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
- Nevada State Department of Investigations (NDI)
- Nevada State Health Division
- Nevada Highway Patrol
Law Enforcement Rangers with the Bureau of Land Management typically wear tan pants and short-sleeved shirts with this logo on their sleeves. They patrol throughout Black Rock City and the surrounding Black Rock Desert.
Undercover officers from both BLM and NDI patrol Black Rock City, and use sting operations, night vision goggles, and other technical equipment to detect illegal drug use and trafficking.
Pershing County officers patrol Black Rock City, and are supported by officers from other counties. They usually wear grey short-sleeved polo shirts marked with the Pershing County insignia. Law enforcement officers from Washoe Country primarily patrol the nearby town of Gerlach.
It is not the mission of these agencies to police your lifestyle or inhibit self expression. They fulfill the same function as the police in any city. In the past, they have conducted search and rescue missions and assisted us in evictions. It is also their duty to respond to any infraction of the law that is brought to their attention or is in plain view. Pershing County has a new Sheriff and we’re pleased to report that he’s been working cooperatively with us and other agencies to focus on participant safety.
The Nevada State Health Division seeks to protect the health of our citizens and prevent food-borne epidemics. Please cooperate with their lawful inspections of all public food preparation sites at our event.
Public & Private: Your Right To Privacy
DISCLAIMER: This Survival Guide provides information about laws applicable to activities within the Black Rock Desert in the State of Nevada. But legal information is not legal advice, which is an interpretation of the applicable law to specific circumstances. Although the authors of the Survival Guide strive to ensure the accuracy and usefulness of the information here, you should consult a lawyer if you want legal advice about a particular legal question or issue you may have. In Black Rock City, many distinctions between what is private and what is public tend to soften and disappear. However, Black Rock City is also subject to county, state, and federal laws. If you violate these laws you may be subject to arrest or citation. If a law enforcement representative requests to enter your home — in this case, your tent or RV — you do not have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge. Under some circumstances, however, an officer may be able to search your premises without a warrant. One exception is when the evidence of criminal activity is in plain view from a public place, such as through a window or open door. Another example is when the officer has “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been or is being committed and the situation is urgent, such as when a suspect is poised to destroy the evidence or a search is necessary to protect the public. Both sight and scent of illegal activity may be held by a court to represent probable cause. The more steps you take to make your vehicle or tent private, the more expectation of privacy you will have against an unwarranted search. On the other hand, if your tent has no walls, or your vehicle doors are always open, then your right to privacy may be diminished. Illegal behavior conducted in plain sight is subject to acts of law enforcement in Black Rock City.
The most common exception to the warrant requirement is when someone gives the police consent to be searched, whether it is a search of their car, tent, RV, or just their backpack or pockets. You have the right not to consent to a search if the police officer asks for your permission to search, and there is nothing wrong with asserting your constitutional right and refusing to consent to a search. The police may decide to search you even without your consent. If you are searched without your consent you may have valid grounds later to challenge the legality of the search. Remember: if you give consent to a search, you cannot later successfully challenge the search and claim that it was unconstitutional.
If you are arrested, the police do not need your consent to search you and the area “close by,” which usually means just the room you are in. In this case, the police may not use the arrest as an excuse to search adjacent tents or RVs where there is no evidence of criminal activity.
What Is Illegal?
Even though Black Rock City is in a remote environment, Federal, State, and local laws remain in effect. The following are just some of the laws you should be aware of:
- The use and possession of illegal drugs are violations of the law. Medical marijuana cards are not recognized by the Federal Government, and the State of Nevada does not recognize medical marijuana cards from other states. Medical marijuana is only legal in a handful of states. Possession of marijuana is a federal infraction in the Black Rock Desert. Having a medical marijuana card is not a defense. BE FOREWARNED!
- The possession of any illegal drug with intent to distribute is a more serious felony offence in all jurisdictions. The possession of large quantities or a variety of drugs may be interpreted as evidence of intent to distribute. Possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to use it to ingest a controlled substance is a violation of the law.
- Giving illegal substances to someone else could rise to the level of drug trafficking. Serving alcohol to minors: if your theme camp has a “bar” where alcoholic drinks are gifted, the person serving alcohol should check that the person being served is over 21.
- It is a State and local offense for anyone under 21 to consume alcoholic beverages or to pass themselves off as being of age. It is a violation of Pershing County law for minors to even possess alcoholic beverages. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a violation of the law. Nevada’s blood alcohol limit (BAC) is .08 for drivers 21 years of age and older, and 0.02 for drivers under 21. Any act of assault or theft is a violation of the law, and may be cited as a felony federal offense. The discharge of unauthorized fireworks is a violation of federal, state, and county laws. Some Native American reservations in Nevada allow the sale and use of fireworks that are NOT legal in the jurisdictions surrounding the reservations. THE POSSESSION OR USE OF FIREWORKS IS ILLEGAL OUTSIDE OF THE RESERVATION, even if they were purchased legally on the reservation.
Laws Specific To Black Rock City
- Light your Mutant Vehicle: BLM regulations require that all motorized vehicles driven at night, including art cars, motor scooters and go-peds have front and rear lights.
- Defecation on the playa: This is not only disgusting, but is also a violation of federal regulations. You may be issued a ticket that will cost you $125 or more.
- You may only come into and out of the event site through the gate: Prior to the event, the Bureau of Land Management issues a federal closure order, creating a closed zone around BRC to ensure the safety of participants and users of the Black Rock Desert. It is a violation of the closure order to enter the closed zone except at the main gate, as is driving outside of Black Rock City in an area adjacent to its boundaries. These violations usually occur when would-be participants try to break through our city boundaries or when people attempt to avoid traffic at the conclusion of the event. PROPER USE OF THE MAIN GATE FOR EXIT PURPOSES WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING EXODUS ON SUNDAY AND MONDAY.
- Violating posted speed limits or boundary signs on the playa may result in a moving violation that imposes a $250 fine.
- Hiking in or through the closure zone is highly discouraged. Those on foot in this area should be prepared to show a ticket stub or risk citation by law enforcement.
- Using area hot springs during the event is also a violation of the closure order.
How To Behave With Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers have a difficult yet important job, both on and off the playa. Please respect the valuable work that they do. It is the duty of all law enforcement personnel to enforce the law. Any illegal action witnessed by the police can lead to a citation or your arrest. Your best protection is to obey the law. However, everyone has a right to courteous, respectful and legally correct treatment by police officers. Visit www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/law_enforcement.html for extensive and invaluable information about these critically important topics:
- how to behave with law enforcement
- what to do if you’re stopped for questioning
- what to do if you’re a bystander during an interaction with law enforcement
- what to do if you’re arrested or taken to a police station
- what to do if the police stop you while you are driving